Should I Repair or Replace the Windows in My Home?


Repair or replace? That’s a common question when it comes to a lot of broken things we own. Windows are no exception. Many homeowners wonder when to repair or replace their windows. When something goes wrong or isn’t working, replacement might be the first thing that comes to mind. However, in many cases, repair is also an option. There’s a lot to consider when deciding to repair or replace windows. Things like the condition of the glass, frame and seal are important when determining whether to repair or replace your windows. Let’s take a look at some of these considerations.

Window Repair vs. Window Replacement: Before You Begin

The age of your home is one important consideration when thinking about whether you need to repair or replace your windows. While lead-based paint was banned in 1978, it was commonly used in homes built before 1960. The opening and closing of older, single-­pane windows can release lead dust into the air and potentially cause lead poisoning in children. While there are remedies for hazardous paint removal, replacing the old windows will eliminate any possible risk of lead paint poisoning. Keep in mind, though, that lead dust could still be disturbed during the project.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed a rule in 2008 that requires anyone doing renovation work on residential facilities built before 1978 to take steps to reduce the dust generated when the paint is disturbed. This is because the dust may contain lead from the lead-based paint. The regulation, called the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule, requires any renovation work — and all door and window replacements — that disturbs more than six square feet of a pre-1978 home’s interior to follow rigorous and costly work practices to protect residents from exposure to lead. The work must be supervised by an EPA-certified renovator and performed by an EPA-certified renovation firm.

Window Repair vs. Replacement

Aesthetics and Appearance

Before you decide whether window repair or replacement is right for you, take a good, close look at your windows. Some things that might look wrong on your windows are easy to repair. Chipped paint, for example, is an easy fix. You can sand and repaint exterior windows yourself, or, if you’re not a do-it-yourself person, hire a professional painter. Before painting, make sure there are no cracks, holes or voids in the window frame. This type of damage needs to be repaired before re-painting.

Do you see a spot or heavy dirt and debris on the glass? Again, that’s an easy fix. You can go to just about any retailer and find an assortment of window cleaning products. If you’d rather hire someone, there are plenty of professional cleaning companies and window washing services you can contact.

Whether you wash your windows yourself or choose to hire someone, double check that the dirt or smudge marks you see are actually on the exterior of the glass. If it’s between the two pieces of glass then washing the windows will not solve the problem. This could be a sign that your insulating glass unit (IGU) is damaged or failing. The IGU consists of two or more panes of glass with a sealed air gap between the panes. The air gap acts as insulation and can either be vacuum sealed or filled with an inert gas such as Argon or Krypton. The inert gas filling is added to help increase the insulating properties. While most insulating glass units are double-pane, there are some areas of the country, particularly those in extremely cold climates, where triple-pane units or even quadruple pane units are used more commonly.

Between the Glass Concerns

insulating glass

If the issues appear to be between the two pieces of glass in your IGU, it could be a sign it’s time to replace your windows. Did you notice what looks like condensation, dirt or cloudiness in between the panes of glass? That could be a sign that the seal holding the window sash into the frame has failed. A failed seal will allow moisture and dirt in between the panes of glass. It could also make your window less energy efficient since air is allowed in between the glass panes.

IGUs have an airtight seal that helps keep warm air inside in the winter and cooler air in the summer. A broken seal can lead to condensation, which can make the space between the glass foggy. This is sometimes called a blown window or blown seal, and usually can’t be repaired. Windows that have a broken seal will most likely need to be replaced. However, if the frame is still good, it might be possible to replace the sash only on a double hung window. The sashes are the two moving parts on the window that allow it to move up or down when opened. Some window manufacturers offer a warranty, but depending on the age of your windows, it may no longer be valid. Most windows come with a 10-15 year limited manufacturer’s warranty.

Cracked or Broken Glass and Frames

Is something wrong with your windows that keeps them from operating properly? That’s another sign it’s probably time to replace them. Here’s a look at some common problems.

Broken Glass

What do you do when your windows fall victim to a kid’s baseball or a severe hail storm? You could find yourself with cracked or broken glass. Is this a reason to replace the entire window? Not always. If the frames are still good, you can save some money by simply replacing the broken glass. However, if the frames are old, it might be worth it to go ahead and replace the whole window.

Frame Issues

Now take a look at your window frames. Neglecting real wood window frames, for example, could lead to so much rotting that the glass doesn’t sit properly in the frame. That, in turn, can decrease their level of energy performance. Rebuilding old, rotting windows can cost just as much, if not more, than new windows. If that’s the case, replacement windows are probably the better option.

Repair vs. Replace: Which Should You Choose?

Hopefully you now have a better idea of how to decide whether you need to repair or replace your windows. Of course, you may decide that your home is ready for a new look. Upgrading your windows will not only add to curb appeal, it can also improve your home’s energy efficiency. When you’re ready to start, look to Glass.com. We can connect you with a professional in your area to help with your window replacement project.

Glass.com attempts to provide accurate information but cannot be held liable for any information provided or omitted.  You should always work with a licensed, insured and reputable glass shop that can assess your specific needs and local building codes and offer professional services. Never attempt to cut, install, or otherwise work with glass yourself. All content is provided on an informational basis only.

© 2020 Glass.com Inc. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without expressed written permission. Questions? Contact info@glass.com.


Ellen Rogers

By Ellen Rogers

Ellen Rogers has been involved with the glass industry for nearly 20 years and is the editor of USGlass Magazine and Architects’ Guide to Glass magazine. Ellen received a degree from Peace College where she studied journalism.

Ellen enjoys running and competes regularly in races including half and full marathons. When not on the go, Ellen enjoys reading, wine tasting, true crime shows, and family game nights with her husband and son. Their favorite game is Clue. Ellen also bakes what is known locally as “World Famous Oatmeal Cookies.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*